Flawless at home, anything but on their travels, Rafael Benitez's Liverpool continue to frustrate and exhilarate in equal measure, particularly to those looking to add substance to the hope that an end is in sight to the club's 14-year title drought.
While Benitez's side have been sneeringly dismissive of inferior opposition on their own patch - West Bromwich Albion, Norwich City and now Charlton Athletic have each been dispatched with consummate ease at Anfield - they have revealed a soft underbelly away from home that undermines any claims to be genuine contenders this season.
Benitez clearly still has significant work to do but the current inconsistencies will not be tolerated for long according to Luis Garcia, twice signed by Benitez and who, understandably, has unswerving faith in his manager's ability.
"When Rafa Benitez knows what he wants, he gets it," Garcia said. "In a few years I'm sure he will talked about in the same way as Arsène Wenger and Alex Ferguson. He did it all in Spain and I believe he will do the same here in England. Everyone is talking about Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea at the moment, but I think that if Benitez gets what he wants in the next 12 months or two years, everyone will be talking about Liverpool as well."
What Benitez wants is at least one new striker. The manager's expected pursuit of Mista, the Valencia forward, can only have gained added impetus from the painful efforts of Milan Baros and Djibril Cissé as they attempted to gel as a strikeforce. The Spaniard insists the partnership has a future but against better opposition, Liverpool's astonishing first-half profligacy in front of goal would have proved costly.
As it was, it took excellent long-range efforts from the midfielders John Arne Riise and Garcia to secure the points against a flimsy Charlton side which had somehow managed to reach half time on level terms.
Garcia, in fact, was the game's most influential figure, providing an invigorating display of flicks and feints that always threatened to bamboozle an increasingly punch-drunk visiting back-four. Fittingly, he rounded off the afternoon with a quite exquisite 25-yard shot that left Dean Kiely clawing optimistically at fresh air as it flew into the top corner. "The manager knows how to get the best out of me and it was because of that that I was so keen to join Liverpool," Garcia admitted.
Like their hosts, Charlton clearly have little appetite for life on the road having collected just one point from a possible 15 away from the Valley. Currently lying mid-table, Alan Curbishley, the manager, is realistic to know that such a paltry return could spell trouble if his side's home form falters.
Curbishley's difficulties stem from the fact that he is still struggling to integrate a handful of summer signings into his team after enjoying years of relative stability within his squad. Danny Murphy had a depressing return to his former club while Dennis Rommedahl was largely anonymous on the right-hand flank and the manager would be justified in expecting more from the pair. For both Benitez and Curbishley, it would appear the January transfer window cannot arrive too soon.
Goals: Riise (52) 1-0; Luis Garcia (74) 2-0.
Liverpool (4-4-2): Kirkland; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Traore (Warnock, 86); Garcia Alonso, Hamann, Riise (Kewell, 64); Baros (Sinama-Pongolle, 76), Cissé. Substitutes not used: Dudek, Diao.
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Kiely; Young, Fortune, Perry, Hreidarsson; Stuart, Holland, Murphy, Rommedahl (Jeffers, 62); Lisbie (Hughes, 77), Bartlett (Euell, 70). Substitutes not used: El Karkouri, Andersen.
Referee: A D'Urso (Essex).
Man of the match: Luis Garcia (Liverpool).
Attendance: 41,625.Reuse content